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Tinderbox Users >> Tinderbox applications >> One TB doc for everything?

Message started by Joel Orr on Aug 16th, 2010, 12:22am

Title: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Joel Orr on Aug 16th, 2010, 12:22am

I have a fantasy, that someday I will discover an app that will enable me to do everything--track people, organizations, places, events, ideas, and more, with everything linked conveniently to everything.

It will allow me to extract reports with Web clippings, with addresses, and more. It will tell me who I haven't reached out to in more than two months. And so on.

Since TB doesn't link from doc to doc, it sounds like attempting even a rudimentary semblance of such a glorious fantasy dashboard and repository means doing it in a single doc.

Have YOU thought about this? What are your observations? What should I be aware of?


Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Stephen Hay on Feb 20th, 2011, 2:25pm


Yes, I'm doing that now.

I have a TB document called "Environment" and at root level "Work" and "Relationships". I put all my contacts in Relationships and all my notes in Work. Any notes from meetings go into the text part of the person. Any notes on material that was suggested by a person is linked to that person.

So far, I have built a fairly substantial map of all my contacts and can see who the nodes are, who has made referrals that have become clients, at which events I met them and so forth. On all contacts I have two attributes, LastContact and NextContact where NextContact is LastContact plus 3 months. I have an agent that checks for NextContact = today and that's my daily follow-up list. I have another that checks for NextContact < today  and that's my overdue list.

It is evolving but I think that I've found the tool (TB) that I've been looking for since about 1997!


Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Joel Orr on Feb 21st, 2011, 5:38am

Thanks for sharing your experience, Stephen. Sounds like your needs are somewhat similar to mine.

It's interesting to me that I posted my note in August of 2010, and yours is the first response. Either nobody else is using TB this way, or those who are are not moved to share.

I've been on-again, off-again with TB for many years, and since posting that note in August, I've gone off again. I had several crashes of TB and lost data. Since I couldn't resolve it, and since the information I was attempting to keep was mission-critical, I put TB "on hold" until a later version with higher reliability shows up.

I'm now using VoodooPad, a simple and powerful in-Mac wiki. There's a new version for the iPad/iPhone, too, that stays synced. The app does graphics nicely and is programmable in Python and other languages--which I avoid, because programming for me saps productivity. But the app is great, the developer is responsive, there's an active forum, and it seems to be stable--no data losses yet. It's not TB, and doesn't attempt all the many things Mark does, but it's working for me right now.

Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Mark Anderson on Feb 21st, 2011, 7:01am

I realise how unsettling it can be to ask what one feels is a normal question and get no reply. However, I suspect the reason for a lack of response isn't unwillingness to share but rather the fact that the topic is very broad; indeed the scope of "everything" will doubtless differ in implied meaning from reader to reader. Why not make the question a bit less diffuse? Perhaps that might help engender more discussion. For my part, I don't do the 'everything bucket' approach so can't comment specifically on the original idea.

You are correct in saying that TB doesn't search outside the current file, so the wider you want your search, the fewer documents you'll want to use. In latter context, a tip is put discrete silos of data in separate parts of the documents - i.e. descended from different containers. If you're trying to make an agent to search for 'to do' items it's useful to be able to start by only considering 'to do' items rather than address info or notes on your collection of Mayan artefacts. You can still search more widely but you probably only want to do that on a deliberate basis, so as not to load the agent cycle time.


Whether an app is 'crashy' is in the eye - or rather user experience - of the beholder, but I don't think it is overall a fair description of Tinderbox's stability. Referencing August 2010 implies you were/are likely using an early version of v5 where some Unicode issues related to the new *v5.0) text engine were being flushed out. The app is currently at v5.7.1 - have you tried the recent version. It's hard to guess your 'more reliable' criterion as met, given the cause of the previous errors isn't described. Did you contact support back when you had the original problem?

Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Joel Orr on Feb 21st, 2011, 2:46pm

Mark, your responses are always marvelously considered, and this one is no exception. Thank you.

It's true that the absence of a response to what is admittedly a broad issue is not an indication of anything in particular; my speculations were simply what came to mind for me, and were not intended as criticism of anyone or anything.

"Crashiness" may be subjective--but OTOH, I don't do anything more than run apps as they are. I happen to know how to open Terminal, but don't know enough to do anything--so I don't fiddle at that level. Yet I lost what I had entered, twice. And despite receiving the abundant attention of The Other Mark, was unable to figure out what was happening. That does make it hard to set a criterion for reduced crashiness, of course.

With this encouragement from you, I will download the latest version and give it a shot. I've loved TB in principle for years, despite mismatches between my usage and its behavior, so I'm not about to give up on it.


Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Mark Anderson on Feb 21st, 2011, 6:05pm

Sounds as though you did all the right things at the time - sorry it was without resolution. Besides a number of Unicode issues, some glitches caused by importing from other sources have been fixed since early v5.0 so I hope you fare better with the current version and get the stability others are experiencing.

Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Rich Shields on Feb 21st, 2011, 6:51pm

As a recent adoptee of TB, I have wrestled at times with the thoughts about “everything in one” especially since I have so many job titles (five) and yet interconnected items. But the more I think about it, the more difficult it becomes to conceptualize (at least for me).

Currently my main one has three major parts: 1) daily journal including phone record 2) Reports, 3) Action items. Still am fiddling with this.

Overall, I like Tinderbox and I use it every day.

Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Simon on Jan 28th, 2014, 9:47am

When I discovered TB I realised I could do most things just using TB. I created one tbx with everything in it and that did have some advantages. However, being new I discovered one doc for all is not good.

Why? The simple answer was agents. The bigger to document the more agents and queries you run, the greater the liklihood that something you haven't thought of or forgotten will mess up something else. I ran an agent that replaced all my notes data with something else, but it applied that to the whole document, which I never intended! This was hard to retrieve and I can hear you all screaming backup!

I now use separate tbxs for different things. I may have a number of tbx documents open and using colour makes it easy to differentiate what's what.

I now don't have all my eggs in one basket!

Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Mark Anderson on Jan 28th, 2014, 12:41pm

Sorry to hear about your agent mishaps. A few tips:
  • Develop in a test file.  If you've got a big mature test document, test potentially damaging agents in a small TBX with some representative test data, before using any code in your main file.
  • Scope your agents. Unless you truly need to query every note, always start your agent query with argument(s) that find as few notes as possible on which to run the 'real' query test. That limits the destructive scope of a misconstructed agent action wreaking havoc. SCoping also helps with performance as checking fewer notes per agent cycle is less work in aggregate leaving the CPU free to do other things.
  • As well as formal back-up, TimeMachine is your friend.

Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by J Fallows on Jan 28th, 2014, 6:23pm

Mark Anderson's tips are of course always wise. But I have evolved toward a modular system like yours, rather than the One Big Unified-File Theory approach, for similar reasons:

>>I now use separate tbxs for different things. I may have a number of tbx documents open and using colour makes it easy to differentiate what's what.<<

It takes practically no time or effort to keep separate files running, and I avoid unforeseen collateral effects of rules, agents, formats, etc leaking from one area to another.  

Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Mark Anderson on Jan 29th, 2014, 10:46am

I should clarify that personally I don't have a fixed view on one-vs.-many-TBX as it really does boil down to personal choice. The issues discussed above by previous posters should give ideas of pros/cons.

It's probably also worth saying that if you want to search across all your notes, then you would need one TBX. Otherwise the choices are really one of personal style.

Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Marco Stolpe on Apr 10th, 2014, 7:08pm

Hi! It's funny that this topic is one of the more recent ones, since I had exactly the same question myself today: Should I keep everything in a single tbx file or in separate ones?

Actually, I had ordered the tutorials yesterday and only thereby realized that one can also link to tbx files and that it could also be nice to have some smaller files rather than a single big one.

What I have experienced so far is that with a single big file, almost everything somehow ends up by becoming a container. At least for me, that's often the most easiest and fastest way to associate information with each other. However, such containers lead to three problems for me:

1) The hierarchy of containers can easily become very deep, and I'm often getting entirely lost in the outline or also map view.

2) Since it is not possible to change the shape of a container in the current version of Tinderbox, at least as far as I know, I lose a useful way to distinguish between different types of information. For example, in the tutorials, persons are sometimes represented by certain types of shapes and I like that very much. Now if I want to add some further information about that person, I'd usually attach it one level below in the outline view, making the person a container. But then the shape is lost!

3) I often need different and specially arranged views for different types of information. When opening some examples and demos on the tutorials CD, I liked it very much that such views - like, for instance, ReadMe files - are automatically opened together with the file. That's another reason why I'm thinking about separate files.

But of course, the disadvantage of using separate files is the missing search functionality and the ability to use agents across different topics. For example, when I'm at that aforementioned person, an idea for a todo related to that person might occur to me. I'd like to attach it directly to the person and let an agent gather all my todos instead of having to enter the todo manually in a separate tbx file.

However, I don't know any solution for this dilemma, apart from implementing a search engine and agents that can also search across tbx documents.

Title: Re: One TB doc for everything?
Post by Mark Anderson on Apr 11th, 2014, 4:49am

Outlines don't have shapes so from what you write it sounds like you mainly use Map view but switch to Outline when adding sub-notes? If so, that's not necessary as in a Map you can nest a note by dragging a note onto another note to make the dragged note a child of the note onto which it is dropped.

Yes, it is the case that containers (notes or agents) don't draw as shapes. I believe this is because it is considered more important to be able to access their sub-maps.However, there are a numerous other visual aspects of map icons that work for both notes and containers (badge, border, colour, shadow, etc.). Badge seems a good choice - you can always add your own.

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